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PHOENIXVILLE - Great Valley’s football team features most of the attributes necessary to have a successful season.
They have big, experienced linemen on both sides of the football, an excellent dual-threat experienced quarterback in 6-4, 210-pound senior Chris Geiss plus a host of capable running backs and receivers.
The Patriots put all of that on display against Phoenixville in a non-league season opener Friday night at Washington Field with Great Valley coming away with 26-13 victory over the Phantoms.
The Patriots, who have 14 returning starters, spotted the Phantoms a 6-0 lead in the second period before Great Valley recovered to take a 13-6 halftime lead. The Patriots added two more touchdowns in the third quarter and then surrendered one at the very end of the contest to create the final margin.
Geiss ran for 109 yards and two touchdowns and also found senior wideout Steven Praplaski for a pair of long touchdown passes to produce the victory.
“We just went after it,” said Geiss. “I wasn’t going to lose to them again. The whole team was hyped up. We weren’t losing again.”
Phoenixville, which was hit hard by graduation from a ballclub that advanced to the District 1-AAA championship game, won last year’s outing, 43-27, at Valley Stadium.
It was a different story this time around as Great Valley rolled up 389 yards of total offense and limited the Phantoms to 213 total yards.
Phoenixville’s Sean Hesser opened the scoring with an 8-yard run. But Great Valley rebounded with a 48-yard scoring toss from Geiss to Praplaski and then a 1-yard scoring plunge by Geiss to take a 13-6 lead into the locker room at halftime. Geiss also had three extra point kicks on the night.
In the second half, Geiss scored on an 8-yard run, and Praplaski caught a 26-yard TD flip from Geiss to stretch the lead. The Phantoms’ Ryan Yenchick closed out the scoring with a 2-yard run and Ian Harrigan booted the placement.
Geiss connected on seven of 10 aerials for 145 yards, and the Patriots controlled the ball enough to earn 18 first downs to eight by Phoenixville.
Cyree Ames (41 yards), River Johnson (37), Chris Temple (33) and Max Burgess (21) took turns running the football against the Phoenixville defense along with Geiss, of course.
The blocking offensively was done by Evan Smith, Paul Slaats, George Scheibe, Dean Lang, Brandon Natalie, Tom Brander and tight end Tim Lamb.
The defensive line consisted of Niall Durkan, Slats, Smith, Lang, Ryan Buchholz and Tim McGowan. Buccholz, a sophomore, had a sack and Johnson intercepted a pass. Phoenixville’s Yenchick had an interception erased on a key roughing-the-passer penalty near the end of the first half.
“The line and backs did their job,” said Geiss. “I just run behind them. It is not that hard. And Prap (laski) and I have been playing together since 90-pound ball with the Conestoga Generals.”
“I was just running takedoffs straight down the field and beat the corners,” said Praplaski. “It is very helpful having a nice running game that sets up the pass. The corners were biting on the run. It is very good to get off to a good start this season. We’ve got to keep it going. We can’t let up. We have Academy Park next week.”
Great Valley coach Mike Choi was especially pleased with his offensive linemen who allowed the skill players to do their damage and the defensive line for holding up against the Phoenixville offense.
“The number one thing we can take out of this game was the excellent play of our offensive and defensive line,” said Choi. “We controlled the laine of scrimmage. We challenged them and they gave us the opportunity to move the ball. When we execute, we are hard to defend.”
Great Valley utilizes a triple-option attack with Geiss running and passing and blending in the running of the other backs.
Phoenixville senior quarterback Chris Demey made his first start and hit on four of eight passes for 69 yards. Ryan Pannella had two catches for 46 yards, one of them a 37-yarder, and Yenchick had two grabs for 23 yards.
“They (Patriots) are a good team with their quarterback and running backs,” said Phoenixville coach Bill Furlong. “Their line blocked well. Their whole team just outplayed us. They played well. Our kids gave great effort, but they a little outsized us and their athletes. He (Geiss) hurt us. We made some plays on him, but during the course of the game he made a lot more.”
Phoenixville, he said, will try to learn from this outing and prepare for next week’s second non-league home game against Exeter.
“We hurt ourselves by trying to do too much,” said Furlong. “We made some plays that were not sound.”
Yenchick ran for 57 yards on nine tries while Brian Madden had 10 rushes for 40 yards and Hesser 27 yards on six gains. ... Phoenixville is starting sophomore Zack Gallow (6-2, 220) at an outside linebacker position. Soph Theo McLemore (6-2, 200) is playing in the offensive and defensive lines, and soph Donnie Jackson is playing on defense. ... Junior Rahim Beasley is a defensive back and wide receiver seeing some time. ... Hesser, McLemore and Yenchick made tackles for losses for the Phantoms. ... The Pats’ Smith, a 6-2, 295-pound senior, made three tackles for losses while Lamb had one.